Reflections On The Stock Industry

Posted on 11/2/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (4)

For those in the stock photo industry October is always a time for intense networking and education in New York with Visual Connections, the PACA International Conference and PhotoPlus Expo. Now that these events are over its time to reflect things learned. Here are a few of my take-aways.


Attendance at PACA is slowly declining as companies are acquired and old friends leave the industry. A total of 108 organizations were represented, 42 of them based outside of North America. An interesting aspect of PACA this year was that 3 of the 9 presentations that took place during the two day conference were sponsored by Microstock Diaries and dealt with issues related primarily to microstock distributor strategies.

Clearly, microstock is now mainstream. Despite this open door that PACA offered, only about 15 of the attendees were actively engaged in the microstock business. This may point up a difference in how microstockers learn compared to those in the traditional business. Microstockers may not need to attend events because they get the information they need through social networks on a constant basis. That information is free and doesn’t require travel. Participants on microstock blogs also get direct feedback to their questions and concerns.


The thing that struck me at PhotoPlus was the total absence of stock photographers. This trade show used to be a magnet for stock photographers. Not too many years ago there was an entire track with 9 seminars over a period of three days dealing with a variety of issues of interest to stock photographers. This year there was almost no mention of stock. If attendance to this show was any indicator it appears that stock photographers have moved on to something else and it may not even be photography.

There seems to be fewer and fewer exhibitors each year. Canon and Nikon dominated the expo with Sony, Fuji, HP and Epson also having significant presences. In the past Adobe and Lightroom had large displays on the trade show floor, but this year they were absent. There were, however, several Photoshop and Lightroom seminars and hands-on workshops that were sponsored by Adobe. Exhibits and seminars of interest to wedding and portrait photographers seemed to dominate the show.

Jack Hollingsworth was there, but his talk this year focused on social media, not stock photography. One of the things in the past year that excited him is the image quality that is coming out of the iPhone cameras. He believes, and I have to agree, that in the future more and more of the still images will come from phone cameras and be delivered to consumers on electronic devices. He promised that by this time next year he will have launched a stock agency that will represent nothing but pictures shot on camera phones.

Art Photography

There is a growing interest in creating and selling photos as fine art. Many photographers who have seen their commercial businesses decline have turned to producing images that can be sold as fine art. While such work provides creative satisfaction and encouragement for the photographer the process of marketing the images is even more challenging and difficult than finding commercial customers, and the economic remuneration is usually less.

Undoubtedly the best attended presentation at PhotoPlus was the keynote address by Frans Lanting, Thomas Mangelson and Art Wolfe. The three inspired everyone with the breath and quality of their work and their abilities to market their images both as art and for commercial purposes. In addition to being great photographers they are also very astute businessmen.


More still photographers are considering stepping up to video. Canon and Nikon offer a whole range of cameras that produce excellent video quality. In certain cases these cameras can outdo traditional video cameras. It also seems clear that the demand for video stories delivered on the web will grow much more rapidly than the demand for still images. Learning to use this new equipment to tell stories effectively will be a challenge, but give of the difficulty there may be less competition in the marketplace, at least for a while.

However, when considering possible competition it is worth being aware of a few statistics. At the current rate 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, or 23,288,800 hours per year. That’s 1,513,728,000 minutes of new video uploaded every year. Every day 3 billion YouTube videos are viewed or 1.095 trillion videos per year. The vast majority of this work is shot by amateurs and of very poor quality, but there is a small portion (and given the overall numbers that’s a lot of hours of video) that is very high quality – and it is free.

Copyright © 2011 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Bill Bachmann Posted Nov 2, 2011

    I write this from Peru.... Machu Picchu to be exact. I either go to or speak at PhotoPlus every year and hated that I missed it this year. But just returned from Greek Islands and now Peru/Ecuacor/ Galapagos Islands.

    Thanks for the overview of PhotoPlus since I could not go this year. Just remember in your "summaries & ideas" that many photographers, like myself, are still working commercially and also doing well in stock. Remember that it is not all GLOOM & DOOM. I traveled around the USA this summer shooting and also giving lectures around the country to photographer groups. I still have a positive message.... you can shoot what you love and, if you are good enough in photography & in your business practices, you CAN succeed. My newest book helps with the business systems to be successful.

    People are reading this newest book and telling me great stories after they get the system down that are successful for them. That makes me proud. And I do love to talk with photographer groups so I am open to come to various parts of the country to spread the word that you CAN still be successful in stock today!

    I am glad you are out there, Jim, but you tend to concentrate on the gloom. I know many people that are still doing well in this poor economy. You & I have a long history and you know how strongly I believe in NOT going the RF, and especially the Microstock routes.

  • Robert Dahl Posted Nov 3, 2011
    And, apparently, writing and promoting books about producing stock is a pretty good extension of the stock business as well!

  • Bill Bachmann Posted Nov 4, 2011
    Actually, Robert, I don't even break even on books. Nor do I try. Don't know you, but hope you are doing well in RM stock.

    But I do CARE about the photography business and hate to see people think they have to go the Microstock route. It has been a good career, and I want it to continue to be when I am gone.... and if everyone sells images for pennies of profit, the career of photographer will become only a part-time thing for people to have beer money.

  • Tim McGuire Posted Nov 5, 2011
    Wow. That's what I thought. Time to get out of this business... or at least it's time to get out of the creator end of it.

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